Discoveries that comply with cosmological models are like a scientific pat on the back. But the ones that don’t hold up to previous standards excite the imagination the most because they imply a more mysterious, dynamic, and maybe even scarier universe.
Sometimes, we get a little too sure of our scientific knowledge. These latest discoveries show us just how much we don’t know and how much we’ll have to rethink our previous theories about the final frontier.
10. A Supernova Birthed Our Solar System
Every cosmic catastrophe is just the birth of some other phenomenon. A supernova, for example, might spark a solar system into life. Our solar system.
The solar system began as a debris cloud, which coagulated into countless bodies that drifted together or apart to form the eight planets and miscellaneous rocks we call home. But that process needed a catalyst.
Like a supernova. The evidence comes from isotopes in ancient meteorites. One of these is iron-60, which decays into nickel-60 and is produced by certain stars and supernovae. The meteorites contained this telltale nickel-60, suggesting a supernova shock wave punched the solar system to life. This implies that supernovae across the universe could be continuously birthing new solar systems.
9. Proxima b Is Probably Scorched And Barren
Only 4.2 light-years away, the red dwarf Proxima Centauri is our closest stellar neighbor. And it harbors an Earthlike habitable zone planet, Proxima b.
But it’s probably barren. In March 2017, astronomers watched Proxima Centauri grow 1,000 times brighter over a 10-second span, suggesting either a catastrophic flare or extraterrestrial weapons testing. In spite of the star’s small mass, the eruption was 10 times larger than the Sun’s mightiest outbursts.
At 4.85 billion years old, Proxima b has probably been absorbing similar hits for eons now. Its atmosphere and water would have long been stripped away by the intense radiation. So the relativistic probes of the future are unlikely to find any interesting biology at their first destination.